Saturday, January 23, 2010

Intervening

Preface
I love to write about things that are happening in my life in the moment. There are lots of reasons for this. Writing is easier when all the material is right there, right now. Writing helps me clarify and organize my thoughts. Writing is cathartic and feels really good. Writing is an adventure; I never know where simply pursuing what's going on right now is going to take me.

I love to write about real people, activities and situations, not fictional or hypothetical ones, specially when illustrating concepts. Hypothetical examples tend to be artificial and flimsy. When you use hypothetical examples, it's easy to fool yourself into thinking that you've really thought something through when you haven't. Your hypothetical example may miss things that a real one wouldn't. So, I like to keep it real.

Which gets to the third thing. I absolutely believe that learning to live authentically is absolutely and positively the single most transformational thing anyone can do for themselves. By living authentically, I simply mean being consistent inside and out across time and space: just being consistently who you are no matter what the situation is, no matter whom you're with, no matter when.

It's not a righteous or religious thing. It's just makes life a whole lot easier. I would wager that some day, someone is going show empirically that much of what ails us in this modern world can be traced back to living inauthentically, keeping things inside, fearing that we'll be found out, spinning everything so much and so often that we no longer no what is and what isn't.

Last Night
As Iris and I munched on spelt crust Puttanesca pizza at Baba Louie's last night, we discussed our week. Iris was over the moon with her fledgling experiment with running. I was glad to be wrapping up a big project I've been working on for Angel Medical Systems and especially glad to be nearly done writing FDA-compliant documentation of my work. On Wednesday, we had a wondrous experience celebrating Quinn's fifth birthday (Iris and Quinn spend time together in the playroom six days every week. Check out Zen Master Quinn.)

As our discussion ebbed and flowed we drifted into a sequence of really interesting (and from my perspective bizarre) experiences over the last week involving folks at two amazing places that have helped me and so many others, places that I love and want to thrive. As we talked, I would occasionally say, "Wow, that's really interesting, I'd like to write a blog about that."

I would start explaining the concept, how it was illustrated by our experience, and why it was meaningful and useful.

After the third or fourth such excursion, Iris stopped me and said, "I really love these ideas, but as you've been illustrating them, you keep talking about hypothetical people and organizations, when in fact they're based on real people and a real organization."

"Normally, you're authentic and up front regarding names of people and groups. Why is it that you often talk about people from the Institute and the Institute itself anonymously?"

After my initial eloquently phrased response of, "What do you... well you see... I... uhmmm... err... Do you really think I do that?", Iris pointed out, "Yes, but only when it seems that someone might take what you're saying as negative or unflattering."

Well, slap me upside the head and call me Susan. After momentarily losing my command of language generally let alone English, I looked at Iris and said, "You're right!" We then proceeded to figure out why.

Enabling Dad
I remember when we finally decided to do something about my dad and his drinking. It was April 14 (the night before tax returns are due in the USA), I was in the middle of band rehearsal in the basement and the kids were all upstairs with Rene getting ready for bed when my dad stumbled into our house drunk, maniacally yelling about his f#&@ing computer and that I had to help him get his taxes done.

I ran upstairs and found my dad in tears about not being able to get his tax return done. He had a boxful of papers and some floppy disks. Rene had come running down the stairs as I had come running up. I looked at her saying that I'd take care of this. I yelled down to the band to carry on without me. I sat down to figure out my dad's taxes as he pissed himself and passed out on the couch.

After finishing his tax return and getting him home, I told my mom that we had to do something about my dad, that we couldn't keep waiting for him to simply get better. At this point, my mom wasn't ready to use the word alcoholic; there were just times when my dad drank a little too much.

We found a place associated with the hospital in town that offered an inpatient rehab program. When I talked to my mom about it, her first question wasn't "Is it a good program?" nor was it "Do you think they can really help him?"; it was, "If goes to a place right in town, won't people find out about it?"

Over time I've discovered that keeping this kind of thing secret doesn't work. "It takes a village" as they say. But the village can only help if they're clued in to what's going on.

Baby and Bathwater
OK, so back to 'why'. As Iris and I talked, I realized that in many ways I was operating like my mom, perhaps coming from a really different place, but having the same effect nonetheless.

As you become more and more authentic, you end up decompartmentalizing your life. You end up just being you. Nonetheless, I'm perfectly happy to let others compartmentalize themselves. Someone can be loving and caring in one situation, and hateful and malignant in another; I simply look at each for what it is. Each is just an example of something he's doing; it's not who he is.

Also, I don't confuse the message with the messenger. Einstein can be a self-absorbed, misanthropic bastard and I'd still buy relativity.

Thing is, I don't believe that other people operate as I do. I believe that, in general, people confuse doing with being and that they confuse message and messenger. I believe that people routinely throw out the baby with the bathwater.

As a result of that, I find myself actively avoiding direct discussion of things about the Institute or people there simply because of my belief that, upon seeing some of the things that might be perceived as negative, people would chuck the whole thing. I don't want that.

So, instead, I do what my mom did with my dad. No one intervenes and the village can't help.

The Best Way to Travel
Seeing all this feels really good. Thanks for traveling with me through my process.

I absolutely believe that living authentically and openly is the best way to go. The discomfort we experience as we emerge from the darkness of our lies and secrets into the light of authentic living is momentary. Our anticipation of that discomfort is amplified by fear and uncertainty.

However, once we get past it, there's nothing so freeing as having nothing to hide, no secrets, no lies, no waiting for the other shoe to fall or the skeletons to emerge from the closet. It's like coming off an addiction. The transition may be difficult, but being free of it is worth it.

OK, I'm clear now and I've got so much more to say authentically and openly, but I'm going to save that for tomorrow. For now, I'll leave you with a couple of questions:

Are you some who keep secrets and maintains lies? (If you find yourself viewing 'lie' judgmentally, then you probably are.) If so, why... who are you enabling... how does it feel... would you like to be free of it all?

Are there places in your life where you've kicked, where you've freed yourself from chains of secrets and lies? How did it feel to do so? Would you do it again? How come?

More tomorrow....

Teflon

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